Colours of Raag Bhairavi

Written by Anupama Roy on 29 May 2019

Bhairavi is aptly called the queen of Raagas because of the many moods it can evoke. Bhairavi is a heptatonic (having all seven Swaras or notes in a scale) Raag. The four Komal (flat) notes of Re, Ga, Dha, and Ni, along with the musician’s unique style of rendition gives this Raag a magical flavour that can evoke a vast spectrum of emotions - from romance to lamentation, from patriotism to devotion.

Let us discover some shades of Bhairavi through movies songs or compositions sung by maestros in musical concerts.

Bhakti Rasa - Invoking the Divine

The Bhakti Rasa or the devotional aspect of Bhairavi is brought out by the beautiful Bhajan (devotional song) “Maata Saraswati Sharada” from the movie Aalaap (1977), and “Dhanyabhaag Seva Ka Avsar Paaya” from the movie Sur Sangam (1985). The absorbing notes of Bhairavi in these songs elevate the listener to a higher spiritual plane. Bhairavi, through its combinations of notes, can convey despair in Aaroh (ascending scale) and hope in Avroh (descending scale). This unique nature of the Raag makes it apt for devotional songs or Bhajans that explore finding faith in the divinity in the darkest of times.

Shringara Rasa - Evoking Love and Romanticism

Shringara Rasa or the emotion of love and passion is another mood expressed through Bhairavi. The notes of the Raag can convey the range of this feeling - from lighthearted lamentations or longing for the beloved to the despair that infatuation can bring.

Take the example of “Baat Chalat Nayi Chunari Rang Daari” from the movie Ladki (1953) or the popular thumri (a short, lyrical and rhythmic rendition) “Ras Ke Bhare Tore Nain” performed by various maestros. The Swar Vistaar or the playful movement of the notes in “Baat Chalat...” express of adoration of the beloved, the sweet complaint and pain of love. On the other hand, the Thumri “Ras Ke Bhare Tore Nain” conveys infatuation towards the loved one.

Bhairavi can also convey the despair of separation and longing, as depicted in the song “Aapki Yaad Aati Rahi Raat Bhar” from Gaman (1978).

Veera Rasa - Instilling Courage

The song “Jeet Hi Lenge Baazi Hum Tum” from the movie Shola Aur Shabnam (1961) shows struggle and hope, wherein Bhairavi lends the inspirational notes to uplift the spirit of the listener.

I conclude with this landmark composition from the movie ‘Anand Mutt’, where the song Vande Mataram is set in Raaga Bhairavi. The song evokes the feeling of patriotism towards the motherland. The song Vande Mataram was instrumental in giving momentum to the freedom struggle of India by instilling courage and hope among people.

The many moods conveyed by Bhairavi has earned it the moniker of Sabrang Ragini (the Ragini of all colours and passions). This evergreen Raag is sung at the end of every Hindustani musical concert, creating a special place in the hearts of the listeners.